Rabbi’s Message – October 13, 2020
This week, Jews across the world begin reading the Torah anew, with Parashat Bereshit, the very beginning of Genesis. There is something about this portion that always strikes me as we read its words, and that is how God creates the world in the first chapter. While we think of God creating the world in seven days, there are a series of acts of separation. God separates light from darkness, sky from earth, land from water – God creates the boundaries of the world and puts everything in its place. Then on the seventh day, God creates a boundary of time – holy time, Shabbat – from the mundane days of the work week. Then we enter into the narrative with Adam and Eve and find that one of the first human actions is to cross a boundary and eat from the Tree of Knowledge. As we enter into this year of 5781, I see this notion of boundaries as something that has been especially challenging in our pandemic world. For many, who have found themselves working (or studying) from home, the lines between work and home are blurred. It feels counter to everything about the rabbinate to not greet congregants with a hug or handshake, especially at their most vulnerable moments, but we all have an awareness of how far 6 feet is more than we did a year ago.
Our Jewish tradition loves to put everything in neat little boxes (and then argue about what you can and can’t do with the contents of that box). And yet, in 2020, all of our boxes seem to have been tossed in the air, mixed up, and/or spilled out. So as we read about God taking the tohu va’vohu – the gloopy mess of our pre-“created” world and taking careful steps to bring order to the chaos, perhaps, as we enter this New Year, we too can start to bring some order to the chaos that 2020 has brought, and find the boundaries, physical, temporal, or spiritual that we need in our lives.